|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
July 31, 2000
Ms. Julie Joe
Dear Ms. Joe:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 138035.
The Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General (the "attorney general") received a request for information relating to a specified case. You claim that information that is responsive to the request is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the information you submitted.(1)
Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from required public disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Gov't Code § 552.101. Thus, section 552.101 protects information that is made confidential by statute. Statutory confidentiality under section 552.101 requires express language either providing that certain information is confidential or stating that information shall not be released to the public. See Open Records Decision No. 478 at 2 (1987). Chapter 231 of the Family Code pertains to the administration of Title IV-D child support programs. Chapter 231 contains the following provisions:
Sec. 231.001. Designation of Title IV-D Agency.
The office of the attorney general is designated as the state's Title IV-D agency.
Sec. 231.0011. Development of Statewide Integrated System for Child Support and Medical Support Enforcement.
(a) The Title IV-D agency . . . shall develop and implement a statewide integrated system for child support and medical support enforcement, employing federal, state, local, and private resources to:
(1) unify child support registry functions;
(2) record and track all child support orders entered in the state;
(3) establish an automated enforcement process which will use delinquency monitoring, billing, and other enforcement techniques to ensure the payment of current support;
(4) incorporate existing enforcement resources into the system to obtain maximum benefit from state and federal funding; and
(5) ensure accountability for all participants in the process, including state, county, and local officials, private contractors, and the judiciary.
. . .
Sec. 231.108. Confidentiality of Records and Privileged Communications.
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (c), all files and records of services provided under this chapter, including information concerning a custodial parent, noncustodial parent, child, and an alleged or presumed father, are confidential.
You inform us that the requestor seeks information that is contained in files and records relating to services provided by the attorney general as the Title IV-D agency under chapter 231 of the Family Code. Section 231.108 provides in relevant part:
The Title IV-D agency may . . . release information from the files and records . . . for purposes directly connected with the administration of the child support, paternity determination, parent locator, or aid to families with dependent children programs. The Title IV-D agency may release information from the files and records to a consumer reporting agency in accordance with Section 552.114.
Fam. Code § 231.108(c). Section 231.108(c) authorizes the attorney general to release the responsive information only for purposes directly connected with the administration of child support, paternity determinations, parent locator, or aid to families with dependent children programs. In this instance, we have no information that would permit us to conclude that the requested release of information is for one of the designated purposes under section 231.108(c). Therefore, we find that the requested information is confidential under section 231.108 of the Family Code. Accordingly, the attorney general must withhold the requested information from disclosure pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code.
This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.
This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code § 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. § 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. § 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. § 552.321(a).
If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. § 552.3215(e).
If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. § 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408,411 (Tex. App.--Austin 1992, no writ).
If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.
James W. Morris, III
Ref: ID# 138035
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Paula Arias
1. This letter ruling assumes that the representative sample of responsive information that you submitted is truly representative of the requested information as a whole. This letter ruling does not reach, and therefore does not authorize you to withhold, any other requested information that is substantially different from the information that was submitted. See Gov't Code § 552.301(e)(1)(D); Open Records Decision Nos. 499 at 6 (1988), 497 at 4 (1988).
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